How practising active listening helps you make meaningful relationships - Hindustan Times

How practising active listening helps you make meaningful relationships

Sep 04, 2023 11:26 PM IST

From increased learning to reduced conflicts, here's how practising active listening can be a powerful tool in forging deeper, more fulfilling relationships.

Active listening is more than just a skill; it's a bridge that connects individuals on a profound level, fostering meaningful relationships that enrich lives. The core principle of active listening is to be fully present and engaged in a conversation. Cultivating active listening skills can have a transformative impact on both personal and professional relationships. The first step to achieving this is listening conscientiously, which eventually develops into your natural personality trait. As someone speaks, strive to understand as closely. Once you begin to master listening so that you can remember their words, give yourself a pat– you are on your way to becoming an active listener! Active listening also involves reading between the lines and capturing each word's tonality. (Also read: Things to do to bring more peace in relationships )

Active listening is a foundational skill that enriches communication, relationships, and personal growth.(Pexels )
Active listening is a foundational skill that enriches communication, relationships, and personal growth.(Pexels )

How active listening can transform your relationship

Dr Sebastian Padickaparambil, Additional Professor and Head Department of Clinical Psychology, Manipal College of Health Professions (MCHP), MAHE, Manipal shared with HT Lifestyle some essential tips to master the art of active listening for healthier relationships.

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1. Improved Understanding: Active listening involves focusing on the speaker's words, emotions, and nonverbal cues. This leads to a deeper understanding of their message, thoughts, and feelings, fostering clearer communication and reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings.

2. Strengthened Relationships: Active listening builds trust and rapport. When individuals feel heard and understood, they are more likely to open up and share, leading to stronger and more meaningful relationships both personally and professionally.

3. Effective Problem Solving: Active listeners gather comprehensive information before formulating responses. This ensures that any solutions or advice offered are well-informed and relevant to the speaker's concerns, increasing the likelihood of effective problem-solving.

4. Reduced Conflict: Misunderstandings and misinterpretations can lead to conflicts. Active listening minimizes these issues by promoting accurate comprehension and preventing assumptions, creating a more harmonious environment.

5. Improved Communication Skills: Engaging in active listening hones one's communication skills. It encourages focused attention, better articulation of thoughts, and the ability to ask relevant and thoughtful questions.

6. Increased Learning: Active listeners absorb information more effectively. This is beneficial in educational settings, professional contexts, and everyday conversations, enabling continuous learning and growth.

7. Respect and Validation: Actively listening demonstrates respect for the speaker's opinions and feelings. This validation encourages them to share more openly and honestly, contributing to a sense of worthiness and esteem.

8. Encourages Openness: Knowing that they are being actively listened to, people are more likely to express their thoughts and concerns without fear of judgment. This openness fosters transparency and promotes authentic interactions.

9. Effective Leadership: Active listening is a crucial skill for leaders. It allows them to understand their team member' perspectives, concerns, and needs, leading to more effective leadership and team cohesion.

10. Enhances Negotiation: In negotiation scenarios, active listening helps in understanding the other party's interests and concerns. This insight can lead to better compromises and agreements that satisfy both sides.

11. Boosts Self-Awareness: Engaging in active listening requires self-awareness of one's own biases and assumptions. This introspection contributes to personal growth and enhances emotional intelligence.

Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Shilpa Gupta, Therapist and Emotional Freedom Technique Trainer, and Founder of Emo-Aid Wellness shared four ways to cultivate meaningful relationships with the art of active listening.

1. Listen with purpose

Approach every conversation to absorb. Listen keenly to every uttered word and grasp it from the speaker's viewpoint. Often, we hear without genuinely absorbing the essence of the speaker's message. This phenomenon occurs when our internal dialogue continues, causing us to capture only a few fragments. The complete picture is painted by our internal interpretations, shaped by our personal experiences and beliefs. But actively listening cuts out our inner stories, raises the speaker’s outlook and enriches a profound bond.

2. Surface the softer side of human nature

Engaging in active listening opens us to discovering the innate depth of compassion within every human being. When a saint taught people how the feeling of oneness and love is a medicine, a disciple asked what to do if love failed. The saint's counsel was humorous yet profound: "Increase the dose". While it may sound amusing from a logical standpoint, it underscores the fact that human beings are creatures of emotions who not only respond to love but also heal with it. Active listening fosters loving connections, where misunderstandings dissipate, and conversations transcend the limitations of words that even gestures begin to speak!

3. Embrace non-judgmental approach

Recognise that nobody is exempt from imperfections. We all have flaws. Judgments are akin to assumptions born from a yet-to-be-evolved perspective. In a world where snap judgments are rampant, choosing a non-judgmental approach is a gift. People will genuinely appreciate your willingness to withhold judgment, even if you can't offer tangible returns. Active listening enables us to share our similarities and feel deeply connected!

4. Cultivate trust and connection

Genuine trust isn't constructed through mere hearing. It emerges from active listening. Immerse yourself in the speaker's words, align your emotions with theirs, and even mirror their body language. This practice nurtures trust and confidence, extending beyond the conversation. In a world where trust issues are a hallmark of broken bonds, listen actively to cultivate trust. Doing so will pave the way for enduring friendship and mutual understanding.

Keep these four understandings in mind while mastering the skill of actively listening. Listen to understand, light the compassion, be non-judgmental and cultivate trust.

"How many times have you had a talk with someone, thinking you were actively listening to them, only to realize later that you can’t remember what they said? Maybe, you got distracted while they were talking and completely missed the message altogether. Listening is the most essential communication skill in any relationship. You might think that silence is something passive that’s not useful in communication and relationships, and yet it’s the very foundation for a place of calm and clarity from where we can hear what others have to say," says Dr. Ishina Choudhary, Counselling Psychologist and Founder of Insight Alchemy.

She further shared five good practices of active listening that can help you ensure that you hear the other person and that the other person knows you are listening to what they say-

1. Pay attention to the speaker with your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message: Recognize that nonverbal communication also "speaks" loudly. Look at the speaker directly. Put aside distracting thoughts. Don't mentally prepare a rebuttal! Avoid being distracted by environmental factors. "Listen" to the speaker's body language. Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting.

2. Show that you are listening: Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention. Nod occasionally. Smile and use other facial expressions. Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “Yes” and “Aha”.

3. Provide feedback: Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect on what is being said and ask questions. Reflect on what has been said by paraphrasing.

4. Defer judgment: Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits the full understanding of the message. Allow the speaker to finish. Don't interrupt with counterarguments.

5. Respond Appropriately: Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.

Be candid, open, and honest in your response. Assert your opinions respectfully. Treat the other person as they would want to be treated.

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